The Olympic Games are about sport and competition. Mostly. But they’re also about other important things that we tend to forget about. Like kids. We all used to be one but somehow the memories of carefree goofing around and bare feet in the summer tend to fade pretty quickly when we grow up.
When I was a kid I liked to goof around and never wear shoes. Then, via Olympic intervention, I discovered speed skating and figured out that it was also pretty fun to skate in circles. It didn’t take much to get me hooked. The little seed of Olympic inspiration was planted in me and set me on a path in my life that still leaves me shaking my head. I’ve been so fortunate to have sport in my life and have done my best to try and pass on new seeds of inspiration to the next crop of kids.
Which is why it was strange that, when couple of months ago my Dad sent me an email, which was a forward email from his cousin, which was a forward email from his cousin’s friend, a teacher, asking if their school could ‘adopt’ me for the Olympics, I hesitated. It took me more than a few weeks to respond, not sure if I should do it, lest it take too much time and energy, or be ‘one more thing’ I had to do. With the blinders on in this final stretch leading up to the Games I feel compelled to conserve energy and have eliminated as many distractions as possible.
But then I remembered being in my room at the Olympic Village in Torino in 2006, and answering the door to receive a package from a school that I was pen pals with, filled with good luck notes, drawings, Canadian flags and a huge banner that read, “Good Luck Kristina!”. I got such a boost of energy from those kids, and when I went to visit the school after the Olympics I received a hero’s welcome.
And I remembered that Olympics are supposed to be fun, and inspiring and exciting. It’s easy to forget that when there is so much serious talk of performance and medals and success. And I remembered too that it only takes one little moment to spark the flame in someone else. So in the end of course I said Yes! to the Walter Lee Lions in Richmond, B.C., and am I ever glad I did!
The little lions at Walter Lee have mighty big hearts. They made posters, had a school assembly and learned all about me. They sent me a little Walter Lee lion in the mail to be my personal mascot. They have embraced me and the sport of speed skating. And, not only have they adopted me, they have adopted my favourite charitable organization, Right To Play as well. The school is selling red and white maple leaf scarves and all proceeds will go to Right To Play.
I haven’t had a chance to meet the little lions at Walter Lee yet, but I feel their youthful energy and Olympic spirit in my heart. Through them I am reminded of what the Olympics is all about. Of course on a personal level it is about performing my absolute best. But on a global scale it’s about sharing the joy we experience through sport with one another and passing it on to all who choose to embrace it.
In a few short days the big show in Vancouver will finally begin. Thanks to the Walter Lee Lions and their very big hearts I feel inspired both to perform and share the joy.
p.s. I still go bare foot – in my skates!